Egyptian priest praises Muslim support of threatened Christians

EGYPT CHRISTIANS SINAIOXFORD, England – A spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic Church praised local Muslims for helping embattled Christians after a series of Islamic State attacks in Sinai.

Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church, said Christians must differentiate between ordinary Muslims and extremists.

“Ordinary Muslims are kind and try to help however they can –  they’re often first on the scene, rescuing the injured and taking them to hospitals,” he told Catholic News Service March 3, as Christians continued to flee Egypt’s North Sinai region.

Greiche said the attacks had affected only Coptic Orthodox Christians, but added that Catholic churches and schools in Ismailia had offered shelter to Orthodox families with help from Caritas.

Greiche said Islamic State militants were now “strongly entrenched” in North Sinai, having been allowed by the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood organizations to use tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

He added that civilians were better off not staying in the surrounding military zone, which was now “under attack all the time,” but said he believed the Egyptian authorities were committed to protecting Christians against the Islamist insurgency.

“You can never do enough against jihadist and terrorist attacks, which come, like any criminal acts, at a time no one can foresee,” the priest said. “But while no country can be fully secure, I think there’s will on government side to act decisively against these constant attempts to destabilize Egypt.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUX 

‘I spent the night at my Muslim friends”: Christians flee Islamic State in Sinai

1488171939180Ismailia, Egypt: Some fled with little more than the clothes they were wearing, terrified that the militants of Islamic State would come for them next.

For a fourth day on Sunday, Coptic Christians – one of Egypt’s most vulnerable minorities – sought safe haven after a series of sectarian killings in and near the town of Arish, in Egypt’s rugged Sinai Peninsula.

Some 95 families have arrived in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, 120 kilometres east of Cairo, church officials said. Frightened, hungry and tired, they are being sheltered in private homes and – belatedly – at government accommodation.

“There were many killings and threats of further violence,” said Kirollos Ibrahim, a priest at the Coptic Church of Ismailia, which has aided the displaced. “God has helped us, and we are finding brothers and sisters to stand by us.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 

Muslims condemn ‘evil attacks’ which killed 24 Christians on the Coptic Church in Egypt

ramzy-jpg-galleryMUSLIMS in Oxford have condemned the ‘evil attacks’ on the Coptic Church in Egypt which killed 25 people.

Dr Hojjat Ramzy, director of Oxford Islamic information centre, gave his ‘sincere condolences’ on behalf of Muslim community of the city to the families affected.

Egyptians are holding prayers for the 24 Christians killed at a church next to main Coptic cathedral in Cairo.

The bomb went off during Sunday Mass at a chapel adjacent to St Mark’s Cathedral in the capital. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Today, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi identified the bomber as 22-year-old Mahmoud Shafiq Mohammed Mustafa.

He said three men and a woman had been arrested in connection with the attack.

The president spoke after Health Ministry officials revised down the number of victims to 24, suggesting that the 25th body belonged to the bomber.

Dr Ramzy told the Oxford Mail: “I believe this was an evil act of people who have no respect for sanctity of life.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE OXFORD MAIL

News on the Bombings in Egypt from the Egyptian Press

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The pace of violence has returned to escalate again following a decline for a while, with three terrorist attacks, blown by terrorist groups against the Egyptian state.
The first attack targeted a security checkpoint in Haram area, Giza, killing 6 policemen on Friday; secondly, an explosion hit a police vehicle in Kafr el-Sheikh governorate, on the same day, killing a citizen and injuring three policemen; and thirdly, a terrorist attack targeting Botroseya Church, in the vicinity of Saint Mark Cathedral on Sunday, killing 25 martyrs and injuring 53 people.
Observers link the 3 incidents to the final verdict against prominent Islamist militant Adel Habbara, the arrest of Osama, son of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, the killing of terrorist Abdallah Azzam in Qalyubiya, and killing of three members of the terrorist group Hasm in Assuit.
The attack on Botroseya Church is also regarded as a punishment to Copts for supporting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Other analysts reject linking the arrest of Osama Morsi and the verdict against Habbara to the terrorist incidents, as these attacks have been planned previously; and they are taking advantage of a big security flaw, the perpetrators having studied the target for a while and implementing the attack after they found a security hiatus.
Some have put forward a different vision, as the incident comes in response to the accusations by terrorist groups to the Church of supporting President Sisi and the nation in all crises and fighting terrorism — doing so in order to destroy the unity of the nation and to try to suggest that the situation in Egypt is unstable.

In post-Arab Spring Egypt, Muslim attacks on Christians are rising

NOTE:  The purpose of this site is to draw attention to news items that highlight threats against Muslims in America or evidence of positive interactions between Muslims and Christians worldwide.  Sometimes, however, it is important to point to places in the world where that interaction is not positive to point out why it is crucial that Muslims and Christians work together to build positive relations for the good of all.  This is one of those articles that underscores why interfaith work is so important.

The Christian and Muslim villagers grew up together, played on the same soccer fields as kids, and attended the same schools in this riverside hamlet. But that didn’t matter on a recent day: An argument between boys sparked clashes between neighbors, with Muslims torching shops owned by Christians.

Gamal Sobhy, a Christian farmer, ran into the melee to protect his two sons. Someone in the crowd hit him with a stick. Then others jumped in, striking him repeatedly until he fell to the ground with blood seeping from his head.

“The Muslims were yelling, ‘Kill him, kill him,’ ” Sobhy said a few days after he was released from the hospital.

Five years ago, many among Egypt’s minority Orthodox Coptic Christians thought the discrimination they had long faced from Muslims would begin to disappear when President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in Egypt’s revolution and the military seized control of the country.

But in the years since then, as an Islamist government was elected and overthrown, that sense of hope evaporated.

Attacks against Christians have intensified as mistrust between Christians and Muslims deepens. Today, community leaders and human rights activists say the smallest of matters are setting off violence, often pitting neighbor against neighbor.

At a time when President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s government is jailing its opponents and struggling to revive a sinking economy, the violence adds a new layer of populist frustration: Christians strongly supported Sissi’s rise, expecting him to protect them after the former army general led a coup that toppled the Islamists.

“As Egyptian citizens, Christians don’t feel they are equal to their Muslim counterparts,” said Bishop Makarios, the head of the Coptic diocese in Minya province, where Asem is situated. “They feel oppressed, and marginalized by the law.”

Christians across the region have endured horrific assaults in the turbulent aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

 

Egypt’s Christians Say They Are at a ‘Breaking Point’

xxcopts2-master768MINYA, Egypt — The Egyptian government has appointed Imam Mahmoud Gomaa, a Muslim cleric, to keep the peace between Christians and Muslims in this corner of upper Egypt. “Everything is good,” he insisted in an interview, citing Christian participation in his official peace-building initiative.

But just a few hours later, the local bishop, Makarios, offered a very different view. “I have nothing to do with Mahmoud Gomaa,” he said.

Once again, Egyptian Christians are feeling under siege, at least in Minya, a city on the banks of the Nile where about 40 percent of the population is Christian. And once again, Christian leaders are divided over how to respond.

At the highest levels of the Coptic Orthodox Church, there is an effort to not make waves and to work with the central government to present an image of unity and calm. After a series of attacks on Copts this summer, the Coptic pope, Tawadros II, pleaded with his followers in the United States not to go ahead with planned demonstrations outside the White House intended to bring international attention to the violence.

“Please, for Christ’s sake, avoid this behavior,” he said.

But in Minya, where violence against Christians often flares, local Coptic leaders are reluctant to go along.

“We are at a breaking point,” Bishop Makarios said. “People can’t put up with any more of this.”

Egypt’s Christian community, an estimated 10 percent of the population, has long had a symbiotic relationship with the state. The government provided security in an increasingly hostile environment, and the Christian leadership helped present a face of tolerance and religious freedom to the West.

 

That compact frayed badly in the waning years of Hosni Mubarak’s presidency and seemed to come undone altogether after he was toppled from power and an Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, was elected. Attacks on churches, led by Islamist youths, surged.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

What Arab Christians Think of Wheaton-Hawkins ‘Same God’ Debate

arab-christiansLarycia Hawkins has a fan in Egypt.

Theresa, the nine-months-pregnant wife of a Coptic Orthodox juice stand owner, could not hide her admiration when told how a Christian professor had donned a hijab in solidarity with Muslims facing prejudice in America.

“It is a beautiful thing she has done, going beyond the norm to better approach others,” she said.

“But it would not work here.”

Her comment came on the heels of her husband Hani’s discomfort. He called the symbolic act “extreme.”

In doing so, the humble man mixing mango and strawberry mirrored the reactions of most regional evangelical and Orthodox theologians to the core question of the Wheaton College dispute: not Hawkins’s hijab, but her “same God” explanation for it. All commended her intentions, but only one—the Palestinian head of a seminary—praised it as a stand for justice.

One pastor called it “excessive.” A bishop, “unnecessary.” And therein lies the rub. Whether considering donning the hijab in solidarity or debating if Muslims and Christians worship the same God, Arab Christians operate in a vastly different religious context.

Only recently have American Christians had to deal with issues raised by Muslims in their midst. The 9/11 tragedy birthed a political culture that seeks unity through theological terms, said Salim Munayer, head of the lauded Musalaha reconciliation ministry in Jerusalem.

“But among Muslims and Christians in the Middle East, the discussion is not over whether we worship the same God,” he said, “but rather Muslims challenging us that we worship one God at all.”

At a recent interfaith event in Cairo, a black-robed, long-bearded Coptic Orthodox priest stood at the podium and abandoned a standard Christian introduction used for centuries.

“In the name of the One God, whom we all worship,” he intoned, sidelining the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Repeating a phrase popularized by George Anawati—an Egyptian Dominican who strove to heal the Muslim-Christian divide—the priest celebrated all the two faiths held in common.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY